header image 2

Looking for Out of This World Retro Gifts, Kitsch, Signs & Furniture. Visit Retroplanet.com

Soft Drink and Fountain Dispenser Evolution

August 7th, 2008 · 29 Comments

All Images are the Property of and Copyrighted to Vintage Vending Inc.

Dole Junior mid-1930’s Dispenser

The Evolution of Soft Drink Dispensing

Recently, while doing descriptions for the soda fountain dispensers in the Retroplanet Museum, I was struck by how little I knew about how these IN-dispensable drinks evolved. Drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have become such a staple in the American diet that I think many of us take them for granted.

Multiplex 1930’s Soda Dispenser

The first attempts at making a carbonated drink date back as far as the early 1770’s, when it was believed that natural mineral waters had curative powers. People flocked to spas where mineral water bubbled naturally out of the earth. Early scientists tried to replicate these bubbly drinks with health benefits for everyone to enjoy. In the early 1770’s a Swedish chemist and an English scientist invented equipment that combined water and carbon dioxide. This bubbly water was called soda water. In 1806 a Yale chemistry professor, Benjamin Silliman, purchased an apparatus and began selling mineral water (unflavored then) in New Haven, Connecticut. Sometimes Dr. Silliman added wine and sugar to his bottled mineral water, but it was Eugene Roussel of Philadelphia that is credited with making flavored soda water popular. In the late 1830’s he added a “soda counter” to his perfume shop where he offered soda water flavored with orange, cherry, lemon, teaberry, ginger, peach or root beer syrup. His success can be measured by the fact that he had nearly 50 competitors in his city within a very short time.

Multiplex 1940’s Soda Dispenser

By the end of the Civil War, soda fountains were a common sight, and flavored soft drinks were commonly dispensed in drugstores at the soda fountain counter. These locations became even more important when the US government passed Temperance Laws forbidding the consumption of alcohol. Soda fountains allowed people to continue to gather and socialize, but without the presence of alcohol. The problem was that the drinks could vary greatly from one to the next, as there was not really a standard method of concocting them. After a pump or two of the syrup, the pharmacist would fill the glass up to the fill-line with ice-chilled carbonated water. This was then stirred and served to the customer.

Dole Junior mid-1930’s Dispenser

In 1888 Jacob Baur started the Liquid Carbonic Co. that manufactured carbon dioxide in tanks. This led to the manufacture and sale of Liquid Carbonic soda fountains in the early 1900’s. This made it possible for pharmacists to make their own carbonated water, rather than having to buy it from a supplier. This arrangement still required mixing syrup and water by the pharmacist and therefore, room for variation.

Super Outboard 1950’s Dispenser

The first automatic soda fountain dispenser that mixed the syrup and the carbonated water together was made in 1933 by Dole and was introduced at the Chicago World’s Fair. This model was the Dole Master Dispenser. Simply by pulling the handle, the syrup and carbonated water were mixed together. In order to cool the drink, ice could be packed into the dispenser.

Multiplex 1940’s Soda Dispenser

Dole then released the Dole Junior in 1936. This was a much smaller, 1-gallon capacity dispenser. It could duplicate the same flavor in each ice-cold drink, much faster than was previously possible. The next major development in dispensers came in 1949 in the shape of the “Outboard Motor” design dispensers, like the Selmix Fountain Dispenser. Designed by the famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy, this dispenser was capable of dispensing a continuous flow of mixed carbonated water and syrup with only one pull of the handle. They were then followed by “Super” models that could dispense two types of soda, and in 1955 the Multiplex Faucet Company introduced the Red Barrel dispenser, the first multiple-drink Coca-Cola dispenser that was designed for use at places like movie theaters and drive-ins.

A very drastic change to dispenser design occurred in June of 1958 when the Dole Citation model was released. It was square and constructed mainly of plastic. It had a totally new and modern look. By 1962 dispensers were available as ice-cooled models or with mechanical refrigeration. These dispensers evolved into the 12- to 16-head self-serve dispensers seen in fast food restaurants we see today.

Tags: Coca-Cola · Pepsi-Cola · Soda Fountain & Dispensers

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 charles // Sep 4, 2008 at 11:11 am

    i have a 1940’s coca cola fountian dispencer i would like to know what it would sale for

  • 2 carissa venuto // Oct 20, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I have a 1949 Coca Cola Soda Fountain (4 jerks) with cooler that makes and holds shaved ice that is from a drug store in Lukin, Texas that I want to sale. Any recommendations where to post and what to sale it for?

  • 3 Pete // Jan 4, 2009 at 7:48 am

    to carissa venuto – I would possibly be interested in purchasing your soda fountain. Please e-mail pictures and info.


  • 4 Brian // Jan 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I am in possession of a red barrel coca-cola syrup dispenser. it dispenses both coca-coal and rootbeer. I have not been able to find and pictures to compare it to the one procuced in 1955. the faucets are procuce by the Multiplex Faucet co. St. Louis. The # on the Faucet is AK1739A. Pat 2D. Is there any information or advice you can give me on this? It is about 2 and a half feet tall and made of wood and metal.

  • 5 Jon // Feb 21, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I have an old Pepsi Cola ceramic dispenser that looks old. I have never seen one like it and have searched the internet and antique books for it but haven’t found it. Can anyone help me date it?? I have photos.

  • 6 Margaret // Nov 30, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Brian – I also have a Multiplex Red Barrel (I have pictures) my faucet engraving is: AK821A. I am also awaiting historical information (Year of manufacture etc.)

  • 7 Laura Macula // Apr 11, 2010 at 8:27 am

    I am in posession of a Pepsi -Cola syrup dispenser
    Barrel. The faucets were made Multiplex St. Louis.Co.The Patent # on the faucet is AK779A.
    The Barrel is made of wood and metal. I would appreciate any information you can give me on this. Thank You….

  • 8 vintagevending // Apr 12, 2010 at 8:36 am

    The Multiplex Red Barrel, the first multi-drink dispenser for Coca-Cola, was made in the 1960s. The dispenser was created to meet the needs of a new type of outlet, such as drive-ins, that had more cooling capacity than standard dispensers, but was less expensive than self-contained units. The red oak barrel came in two sizes — 17 gallon and 45 gallon. – from http://www.coca-colaconversations.com/.m/my_weblog/2008/09/lessons-learned/comments/

  • 9 gildardo garcia // Apr 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    i need to know how much for the coca cola fountain dispenser please

  • 10 vintagevending // Apr 30, 2010 at 9:05 am


    We no longer own this machine. If you are asking about one you have, you might be able to get a value from americansodafountain.com, as we can’t give estimates anymore, since we have been out of the restoration business for awhile.

  • 11 O'Neil // Sep 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I have a piece of soda fountain equipment with a tag INNOVATION American Soda Fountain Company U.S.A. It is a marble base with 2 pulls with marble knobs and 2 hand valves. The pulls and hand valves appear to be brass. I can’t find anything on line that looks similar. Can anyone tell me where I might find information about it?

  • 12 vintagevending // Sep 12, 2010 at 7:40 am

    You may want to try http://www.americansodafountain.com

  • 13 JTE // Oct 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Anyone have a copy of the Service Manual for the Mutliplex Red Barrel Fountain Dispenser that they could scan and make available? Fun-Tronics indicates their printer lost the original and I cannot locate anyone else that has one.

  • 14 Galin Jonas // Feb 5, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I have a syrup dispenser that does both coca cola and root beer. it is an oak 55(approx) gallon barrel with 4 metal bands on the upper and lower parts of the barrel. it has lions claw feet. it has the red drink coca cola emblem on front. it has drink coca cola ice cold on the side and a rochester root beer metal sign on the back. another oval metal sign is missing. it is in very good condition. i was curious how old it might be and what it might be worth.

  • 15 Chris Mac Math // Mar 13, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I just found your site and love it! I was wondering if possible if I sent you a couple of pics of a soda machine I picked up last week could you give me some info on it?
    Thanks, Chris

  • 16 H. Paul Schuster // May 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I’ve got two Rochester root beer machines… the kind w/ the frig./compressor below. I have stored them many years and its time to sell.

  • 17 rick // Jul 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    i have a 5 gallon wooden pepsi cola syrup dispenser. ball park of worth? in good cond. thanks

  • 18 Rick // Oct 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I have dispenser like the third one the page. It looks like a tombstone. When was it made and what is it worth?

  • 19 JoeT // Feb 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    I have a 45 gal oak barrel with a single Multiplex faucet. It came from a Richardson Root Beer drive-in. It is missing the cast lions feet and a stainless lid for the single syrup tank. Where might I find these items; especially the cast aluminum feet?

  • 20 vintagevending // Feb 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Joe
    You may want to try http://www.americansodafountain.com They have many dispenser parts.
    Good luck! Hope they can help.

  • 21 BUTCH // Feb 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    I have a Pepsi cola Multiplex 44. I an looking for a lid for it. Would sell if one would need it. I have all of the parts ex lid. cell 870-886-9232

  • 22 John Janoski // Feb 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I have an old wood barrel Pepsi cola dispenser it looks to be about maybe a 45 gallon barrel it has the seperate compartments for syrup and guessing carbonated soda? it also has the faucets and pepsi cola logo on it, its completely orginal Not restored, I dont know much about this type of thing..not even sure exactly what its called. I’d like to know what it is exactly and what its worth?

  • 23 Jimbo Fine // Dec 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I have a tombstone coke fountain I’m giving to a friend for his game room. I’m trying to get dispenser tanks to get it running ? Can you help?

    Jimbo Fine. 432-212-6697

  • 24 John Barrow // Apr 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    I recently acquired (2) drink dispensers that were in an A&W that my friend’s dad owned. There are no labels or tags with a name of the manufacturer on them. I am very interested in restoring them. They have a heavy refridgerated base with aluminum type grate wrap. Large glass globe w/ light on top. Can you help me find manufacturer?

  • 25 vintagevending // May 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

    John, The website http://www.soda-machines.com may help you to identify your soda dispensers. There are many soda dispensers (syrup dispensers) and soda machines shown on this site. We hope that by viewing the photos of the different machines you are able to identify yours.

  • 26 Margie // May 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I have a rounded Coca-Cola dispenser that came out of my parents 1947 Diner. It was on the bar and has lines that go to the refrigerant that was in the basement. Do you know what it is worth? It is in excellent condition and still has the old tanks of syrup.

  • 27 vintagevending // May 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Margie, We aren’t able to give estimates on the value of your machine, but you could try Ebay or Craig’s List. Sometimes items like this pop up, and they can give you a ballpark figure on the value of your machine. You can also check http://www.soda-machines.com to help identify exactly which model machine you have.

  • 28 Danny Croker // Aug 8, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Looking for an selmix 26 done in pepsi colors, either restored or not. If you can help me find one please email me at DannyCroker@aol.com

  • 29 Danny Croker // Feb 6, 2018 at 10:25 am

    I have a Dole Citation Despinser and looking for the best person to restore it. Can you help me out, Thanks

Leave a Comment

All Images are the Property of and Copyrighted to Vintage Vending Inc.